Widespread Presence of Harmful Flame Retardants in U.S. Breast Milk: A Concerning Study

Research Reveals Alarming Contamination of Breast Milk by 25 Types of Toxic Flame Retardant Chemicals

In recent findings that have raised concerns, new research highlights the extensive prevalence of a class of toxic flame retardants within breast milk across the United States. A comprehensive study analyzed breast milk samples from fifty women throughout the country, shedding light on a disturbing discovery. Each sample exhibited the presence of brominated flame retardants (BFRs), encompassing a total of 25 distinct varieties of these compounds within the milk, as documented in a report by The Guardian.

Read also: Outrage in Spain as Soccer Chief’s Inappropriate Gesture Mars Women’s World Cup Ceremony

BFRs, commonly encountered in plastics, televisions, and electronics, constitute the largest marketed group of flame retardants today due to their cost-effectiveness and high-performance capabilities, as affirmed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This surge in their popularity followed the ban and scrutiny of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), previously used as flame retardants, due to potential health risks.

Strikingly, this study highlights the structural similarity and shared purpose of the banned PBDEs and the unregulated bromophenols. Despite their relative obscurity regarding toxicity, evidence points towards their adverse impact on human health.

The EPA reveals that epidemiological studies distinctly indicate the negative effects of BFRs on human health. These effects encompass cryptorchidism, disruptions in thyroid hormone equilibrium, reproductive implications, and impaired development in school-age children, including reduced psychomotor development index and IQ performance.

“Recent epidemiological studies clearly indicated that BFRs affect human health. The human health effects include cryptorchidism, alterations in thyroid hormone homeostasis, reproductive effects, and reduced development of children at school age that include psychomotor development index and IQ performance.”

How People Get Exposed

Human exposure to these chemicals occurs through inhalation of contaminated dust or ingestion. Indoor contamination emerges as a significant source of exposure, particularly affecting young children who frequently engage in hand-to-mouth behavior. Furthermore, the study unveils that a specific class of BFRs has been detected in plastic toys containing recycled plastic content, with noteworthy leaching into artificial saliva.

Erika Schreder, co-author of the study, expressed dismay at the persistent presence of brominated flame retardants in breast milk, even after the alarm bells rang concerning PBDE contamination two decades ago. 

“It’s maddening to find current-use brominated flame retardants in breast milk, 20 years after contamination with PBDEs rang alarm bells,” said Schreder.

She highlighted that Best Buy has taken strides towards safer chemical alternatives in its television sets, emphasizing the feasibility of adopting such practices. Schreder advocates for other electronics retailers to follow suit, urging the use of exclusively safer chemicals.

“Best Buy has shown it’s possible — now it and other electronics retailers should take the next step and ensure all the electronics they sell contain only safer chemicals,” she added.

Imposed Restrictions

Notably, the study underscores that both Apple and HP have imposed restrictions on these harmful chemicals. However, the issue persists as flame retardant chemicals may be eliminated from one product line while resurfacing in related merchandise.

Chlorinated tris, a banned flame retardant chemical linked to potential DNA alteration, serves as a poignant example. Despite its prohibition in children’s pajamas since 1977, its discovery in a child’s play tunnel by Dr. Heather Stapleton from Duke University accentuates the significance of continued vigilance.

“That really horrified me,” she said. “He put his mouth all over that mesh.”

In conclusion, the research’s revelations of extensive toxic flame retardant contamination in breast milk underscore the urgency of addressing this issue. The findings warrant industry-wide cooperation to adopt safer alternatives and minimize the health risks posed by these substances. This comprehensive study acts as a call to action for electronics retailers to prioritize consumer well-being by embracing alternative chemical solutions

Asian Stock Market Declines Ahead of Fed Chair Powell’s Speech: Impact on Global Economy

Nikkei 225, S&P/ASX 200, Hang Seng, and More Experience Losses Amidst Wall Street Slump and Mixed Economic Signals”

In the realm of global financial markets, a prevailing sense of caution looms as Asian shares encountered a downtrend on the cusp of a significant address by U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman, Jerome Powell. The backdrop to this scenario is the aftermath of a notable Wall Street setback, propelled by Nvidia’s stellar profit report, and a medley of ambiguous indicators relating to the U.S. economy.

Read also: Female entrepreneurs are on the rise in 2023: 7 businesses you can delve into

The Situation in Asian Markets

Amidst this financial landscape, the benchmark Nikkei 225 of Japan grappled with a notable 1.8% descent, reaching 31,713.24 points in morning trading. Similarly, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 experienced a dip of nearly 1.0%, positioning itself at 7,111.60. Meanwhile, South Korea’s Kospi bore a 0.6% loss at 2,522.09, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped by 1.0%, stabilizing at 18,035.97. In the realm of the Shanghai Composite, a marginal 0.3% retreat saw it at 3,073.25.

Zooming in on Japan, the trajectory of inflation in Tokyo exhibited a moderation to 2.9% in August, in contrast to the previous year. This transition is largely attributed to diminished energy costs, as revealed by government data. A closer inspection, excluding the volatility of fresh food prices, indicated a 2.8% rise from the preceding year. This marks a moderation in gains, a phenomenon observed for the first time in two months.

Although the intensity of inflationary pressures seems to be gradually subsiding in Japan, energy prices are finding stabilization. However, it’s noteworthy that the metric gauging prices still stands above the 2% target established by the Bank of Japan.

Powell and the Market’s Progress

Front and center on the minds of regional investors lies the impending discourse by Jerome Powell, the chairperson of the U.S. Federal Reserve. This dialogue, scheduled in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, carries the weight of historical policy proclamations. The outcome of this address holds the potential to shape the trajectory of global economic dynamics.

Reflecting on the transatlantic context, the S&P 500 registered a significant 1.3% downturn, marking its most substantial decline in three weeks. This setback substantially eroded the week’s gains, which had hitherto provided a glimmer of positivity amidst the turbulence characterizing the month of August. Notably, the Dow Jones Industrial Average receded by 373 points, approximating a 1.1% decline. A more substantial retreat was witnessed in the Nasdaq composite, which recorded a 1.9% tumble.

The underlying cause of this equity slump stems from the stabilization of Treasury yields, a phenomenon following a prior day’s descent. The surge in bond market yields has exerted pressure, reducing investor enthusiasm for equities and other high-risk assets. This situation poses a significant ‘wait-and-watch’ conundrum, contingent on Powell’s forthcoming discourse.

10-Year Treasury Yield

The yield on the 10-year Treasury stood at 4.23%, a marginal increase from the preceding 4.20%. Notably, this metric had edged down from 4.33% the previous day, hovering in proximity to levels last witnessed in 2007.

The dynamics of yields demonstrated a degree of traction, underpinned by mixed signals emerging from the U.S. economy. While one report indicated a reduction in applications for unemployment benefits, another painted a picture of subdued orders for durable manufactured goods in the prior month, an outcome diverging from economist predictions.

The current juncture sees a peculiar favoring of weaker-than-anticipated economic signals within financial markets. Despite steering clear of a long-predicted economic downturn, the apprehension lingers that the robustness of the economy might perpetuate inflationary pressures.

A pertinent dimension of this scenario pertains to the strategies of the U.S. Federal Reserve. In a bid to quell the flames of inflation, the central bank has already elevated its main interest rate to levels last witnessed in 2001. This approach aims to temper inflation by impeding economic momentum and casting a pall on investment prices.

Watered-Down Optimism

Initial hope had taken root that July’s interest rate escalation would represent the culmination of a cycle, especially considering the substantial cooling of inflation since its zenith above 9% in the previous summer. Additionally, traders had begun speculating about a prospective commencement of rate cuts in early 2024. However, this optimism has been tempered by a sequence of economic reports that exceeded expectations.

A case in point is the two-year Treasury yield, closely intertwined with expectations of Federal Reserve policy. This metric ascended to 5.01%, an ascension catalyzed by reports suggesting a cooling of U.S. business activity in August.

Within this intricate mosaic, John Vail, Chief Global Strategist at Nikko Asset Management, speculates that Powell’s discourse might lack the vigor associated with steadfast rate elevation. Vail’s reasoning emerges from the context of an unexpected economic slowdown.

Vail opines, “Powell is likely to express concerns about the lingering pace of inflation decline, and it would be judicious for the market to not anticipate rate cuts at least until the initial portion of 2024.”

Other Stocks

In the backdrop of Thursday’s equity vulnerability, it’s worth noting that Nvidia, a formidable player on Wall Street, reported profits that surpassed expectations by a significant margin. This robust performance has kindled optimism that the recent frenzy surrounding artificial intelligence technology could be grounded in substantial substance rather than mere speculation.

Nvidia had already stunned the market three months prior with its prediction of soaring revenues in a three-month span culminating in July, propelled by rapid AI adoption. The actual sales figures turned out even more impressive, at a staggering $12.51 billion. Furthermore, the company’s projection for the current quarter surpassed Wall Street estimates by a significant margin.

As the financial narrative unfolds, the S&P 500 navigated a decline of 59.70 points, setting its position at 4,376.31. The Dow Jones Industrial Average experienced a contraction of 373.56 points, culminating at 34,099.42. The Nasdaq, in a parallel trajectory, registered a plummet of 257.06 points, reaching 13,463.97.

Energy Trading

Switching to the realm of energy trading, the benchmark U.S. crude experienced an increment of 31 cents, ascending to $79.36 per barrel. Likewise, Brent crude, the international standard, notched an uptick of 30 cents, reaching $83.66 per barrel.

In currency markets, the U.S. dollar exhibited a modest appreciation, rising to 146 Japanese yen from 145.81 yen. Conversely, the euro witnessed a minor decrease, declining from $1.0819 to $1.0786.

In this intricate web of economic dynamics, the Asian stock market’s present course is poised to intersect with the insights Jerome Powell will unveil in his imminent discourse. The outcomes of this rendezvous have the potential to reverberate across global economies and financial markets, making it a moment of particular significance and anticipation.

Outrage in Spain as Soccer Chief’s Inappropriate Gesture Mars Women’s World Cup Ceremony

In a shocking turn of events at the Women’s World Cup ceremony, the soccer community finds itself grappling with a controversy that has ignited waves of anger and dismay in Spain. The focus of the uproar? An ill-judged gesture by a soccer chief that has left many questioning the boundaries of professionalism and respect within the sport.

Read also: Pickleball’s Indoor Migration: The Fastest Growing Sport Takes Shelter

The Unforgettable Kiss

As the world’s attention was drawn to the celebration of women’s soccer achievements, an unexpected and unwanted moment stole the spotlight. The president of a prominent soccer organization planted a kiss on the cheek of a female player during the ceremony. This move, meant to symbolize camaraderie and support, instead raised eyebrows for its inappropriateness.

Outraged Voices Speak Up

In a sport that has been working diligently to promote gender equality and create a safe environment for female players, this incident has struck a discordant note. Voices from all corners of the soccer world, especially in Spain, have risen in collective protest against what is viewed as a violation of personal space and an undermining of the players’ accomplishments.

Critics argue that such actions not only overshadow the significance of the event but also perpetuate a culture of gender-based discrimination. The very essence of the Women’s World Cup celebration was tarnished by a gesture that seemed to convey a lack of understanding about the importance of consent and professionalism.

Reverberations and Repercussions

As the outrage reverberates through social media and news outlets, the incident has sparked important conversations about the role of leadership and the responsibility that comes with it. While some individuals defend the soccer chief’s intentions as well-meaning, the consensus remains that the incident highlights a need for greater awareness and sensitivity in high-profile events.

The broader implications of this incident extend beyond the soccer field. It brings into focus the ongoing struggle for women’s rights and equality in the sports industry. The incident serves as a reminder that while progress has been made, there is still work to be done in dismantling harmful stereotypes and creating an inclusive environment for all.

From Outrage to Opportunity

In the midst of this controversy, there lies an opportunity for growth and change. Soccer organizations, not just in Spain but around the world, can take this incident as a catalyst for necessary conversations about respect, consent, and professionalism. By acknowledging the mistake and using it as a stepping stone, the sport can reinforce its commitment to gender equality and set an example for other industries.

A Call for Transparency and Accountability

Transparency and accountability should be the cornerstones of any organization, particularly one as influential as a soccer association. In order to restore faith in leadership, it’s imperative that the soccer chief and other responsible parties address the incident openly and take concrete steps to prevent such occurrences in the future. This could involve implementing training programs that emphasize appropriate behavior and ethical conduct.

The Path Forward

As Spain and the global soccer community grapple with the aftermath of this incident, it’s important to remember that progress often arises from moments of discomfort and challenge. The anger and disappointment expressed by fans, players, and advocates serve as a reminder that change is both necessary and possible.

The Women’s World Cup ceremony should have been a celebration of achievement, unity, and empowerment. While this incident has cast a shadow, it also provides an opportunity to shed light on the work that remains to be done. By learning from mistakes and committing to a future that is respectful and inclusive, the soccer world can turn this unfortunate episode into a stepping stone toward a more equitable future.

Pickleball’s Indoor Migration: The Fastest Growing Sport Takes Shelter

In recent years, a captivating sports phenomenon has been sweeping the nation, catching the attention of both seasoned athletes and newcomers alike. Pickleball, a quirky blend of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong, has skyrocketed in popularity, positioning itself as the fastest-growing sport in the country. While it’s no secret that outdoor courts have been the heartbeat of this exhilarating activity, a new trend is emerging – the migration of pickleball from the open-air courts to indoor facilities. In this article, we explore the driving forces behind this migration, the implications it holds for the sport.

Read also: Kids in sports: how you can protect them and still let them have fun

The Rise of Pickleball: A Quick Recap

Before delving into the indoor migration, let’s take a quick look at why pickleball has become a sensation. This sport’s appeal lies in its accessibility, catering to a broad demographic – from retirees seeking active leisure to young adults craving a unique athletic experience. With simplified rules and a smaller court size, pickleball minimizes barriers to entry, making it an ideal choice for both newcomers and experienced players.

From Sunshine to Shelter: The Indoor Migration

What’s fueling pickleball’s transition from sunlit courts to indoor venues? One key driver is weather inconsistency. While outdoor play offers a refreshing connection to nature, unpredictable weather conditions can put a damper on players’ enthusiasm. This is particularly true for regions prone to rain, extreme heat, or chilly temperatures. By moving indoors, pickleball enthusiasts can enjoy uninterrupted play regardless of the elements outside.

Another catalyst for the indoor migration is extended playing hours. Outdoor courts are subject to daylight availability, limiting the time players can engage in matches. Indoor facilities, on the other hand, offer extended operational hours, making it possible for enthusiasts to indulge in their passion beyond the confines of daylight.

Implications for the Pickleball Community

The transition of pickleball from outdoor to indoor settings carries significant implications. Indoor facilities provide a controlled environment, allowing for standardized court conditions and enhancing the overall player experience. Additionally, this migration opens doors for competitive leagues and tournaments to thrive throughout the year. The allure of pickleball competitions isn’t restricted to the bright sun anymore; it’s stepping into the spotlight of indoor arenas.

Transitioning from Enthusiasts to Entrepreneurs

Denise and Will Richards, residents of Maryland, embarked on an unexpected journey from being enthusiastic pickleball players to successful indoor court proprietors. Their venture began in November of the previous year, when they inaugurated their inaugural indoor pickleball court, a decision that proved to be incredibly rewarding. The demand for their services surpassed all expectations, leading them to establish two more courts in the span of under a year. Remarkably, two additional courts are currently in the developmental pipeline.

Ironically, the Richardses had not initially intended to immerse themselves in the pickleball business. Prior to their entrepreneurial endeavor, Denise was occupied in the realm of sales, while Will managed a set of Domino’s franchises. It was their personal passion for pickleball that eventually sparked the ignition of their enterprise.

Several years ago, the couple discovered their love for pickleball, a passion that didn’t waver even when cold weather threatened to halt their outdoor play. A pivotal moment arrived during a winter escapade to Pennsylvania, when acquaintances recommended they try out indoor pickleball courts in close proximity.

To their chagrin, the term “indoor” turned out to be quite generous, as the courts were housed within a poorly insulated barn, subjecting players to freezing temperatures. The heating arrangements were inadequate, with a modest wall-mounted heater serving as the sole source of warmth. Basic facilities were lacking, with portable toilets stationed outside. Inside the barn, the temperature plunged below freezing, presenting a formidable challenge.

Despite the challenging conditions, Will Richards asserted, “When one possesses a genuine pickleball addiction, the urge to play transcends environmental discomfort.”

Fueled by a vision of creating a superior indoor pickleball experience, Denise and Will Richards seized the opportunity to establish their own indoor pickleball court enterprise. The business, aptly named “Dill Dinkers” at the suggestion of their daughter, ingeniously merges the term “dink,” a shot in the sport, with the essence of the game itself.

As Denise Richards highlighted, “Operating a pickleball establishment lacks a predefined playbook. Presently, it mirrors the untamed, uncharted realm of the Wild West, as individuals navigate the uncharted territory.”

The journey of the Richardses began with a soft opening in their debut week, during which complimentary access was extended to patrons to fine-tune operations and rectify any initial hiccups. Their courts enjoyed maximum occupancy throughout the trial period. Presently, they offer per-session pricing along with membership packages, starting at $33 per month for their North Bethesda location.

RSV Breakthrough: FDA Approves First Vaccine for Newborns, Tackling a Persistent Threat

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted approval to the inaugural RSV vaccine intended for pregnant women, aiming to safeguard their newborns.

Administered during the final trimester of pregnancy, Pfizer’s novel vaccine – named Abrysvo – shields infants against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and the resulting lower respiratory tract illness, throughout their initial six months of life.

RSV’s Impact and Hospitalization Rates: A Grave Concern

RSV is a prevalent respiratory virus often causing mild symptoms, but it can pose a significant threat to infants, young children, and older adults. Every year, as many as 80,000 children under the age of 5 require hospitalization due to RSV, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This makes RSV the primary cause of hospitalizations among infants.

Dr. Scott Roberts, an assistant professor of infectious diseases at Yale School of Medicine, notes, “RSV has been a persistent concern for the infant population, not just in the United States but globally, for a considerable time.”

In May, a committee of advisors within the FDA expressed unanimous support for the vaccine’s effectiveness. Typically, the FDA aligns with the committee’s decisions to approve drugs, although this isn’t always the case.

A study encompassing 7,400 women across 18 countries revealed that the vaccine demonstrated an 82% effectiveness in preventing severe infant disease within the initial three months of life and a 70% effectiveness within the first six months.

“Efforts to develop vaccines and treatments for RSV have faced setbacks for many decades,” Roberts comments. “A lot of us within the medical community are entering the upcoming winter season with a sense of hope and excitement, knowing that we now have various options on the horizon.”

The previous year witnessed an earlier-than-expected RSV outbreak that overwhelmed numerous children’s hospitals, highlighting how a severe season can strain the country’s capacity to care for critically ill children.

Read also: Spending could be more timid in 2023 holiday seasons

RSV Prevention on a Global Scale: Impact Beyond Borders

Dr. Eric Simoes, affiliated with the Children’s Hospital Colorado, collaborated with Pfizer and has dedicated decades to RSV prevention efforts. He describes this approval as truly exciting news.

“My sole aspiration is to ensure that these vaccines reach not only children in the U.S. but also those in developing nations who are in dire need,” Simoes emphasizes.

This year, RSV activity has already kicked off in states like Florida and Georgia, as reported in the newsletter “Force of Infection” by Dr. Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Originally sanctioned for adults over 60 in May, the vaccine is now ready for the 2023-24 RSV season. Pfizer confirms it has been manufacturing the vaccine in advance of approval and anticipates having an ample supply to meet the demand.

Dr. Roberts expresses a heightened sense of optimism, particularly because his family is expecting a baby in December, right around the typical peak of the RSV season. With these developments, they now have several protective options to consider.

“The unique aspect about RSV is that it strongly impacts healthy infants. In most cases, regardless of any pre-existing conditions, we see children being admitted to hospitals due to RSV-related illness, and unfortunately, some of them, who are otherwise perfectly healthy, do not survive,” he explains. “This is something that deeply troubles me.”

Spending could be more timid in 2023 holiday seasons

Spending — With August approaching the midway point, September is on the horizon, heralding the first hints of holiday shopping. Although it is usually advisable to begin shopping early, the state of the economy has created a dilemma that may impair customers’ spending patterns.

According to early predictions for this year’s Christmas shopping, buyers may be forced to be more frugal with their spending, with little to no choice but to spend less. Despite the fact that it is still August, many people are anticipating how the approaching holiday shopping season will unfold.

Read also: 3 ways the Fed’s latest hike rate can affect you

The last two months of the year

November and December are often dominated by customers going from store to store looking for deals and discounts on present purchases. They are an excellent indicator of the consumer’s purchasing power.

The last two months of the year are especially crucial for retailers since they account for one-fifth of their annual sales.

With retailers preparing for the key fourth quarter, which normally results in overall profitability, an estimate has surfaced indicating that merchants will not have blockbuster Christmas sales this year. Regardless, sales are likely to increase over previous year.

“We are cautiously optimistic about the holiday season,” said Coresight Research senior retail/technology analyst John Harmon.

According to Coresight, year-end holiday sales for October through December 2023 will increase by the low single digits compared to 2022.

According to the National Retail Federation, holiday sales in 2022 increased by 5.3% when compared to the previous year for November and December combined. However, the figures do not indicate that the year is on track to hit a new low. It should instead be understood as the United States emerging from years of anomalous economic activity.

According to Harmon, estimates for 2023 are based on good years of significant holiday sales growth, difficulties in drawing comparisons, and projecting how soon holiday spending may commence.

“The patterns of holiday spending have changed,” said Harmon. “It doesn’t all happen all in the fourth quarter these days.”

Early kickoff

Harmon’s remarks harkened back to 2021, when merchants including Amazon and Walmart were worried of customer demand due to the epidemic, kicking off Christmas shopping earlier in October. In 2022, a similar trend was replicated, extending the Christmas shopping season.

For example, Home Depot stated last week that it will begin selling holiday-themed merchandise online. The firm said that it utilized the same strategy as in previous years to increase sales of festive products after observing early customer interest, namely for Christmas merchandise.

Slower sales

However, Harmon emphasized that retail sales in the United States are slowing. 

“There are pluses and minuses for the consumer,” he said.

To underscore his thesis, hourly salaries in the United States are growing year over year, yet the labor force participation rate remains low. As a result, any gains gained by a household are still offset by a number of variables. According to Coresight, one of the causes is persistent (but lowering) inflation on items such as:

  • Groceries
  • Gas
  • Housing
  • Interest-rate hikes
  • Slowing housing market
  • Resumption of student loan repayments

“The savings rate has gone down and it’s a concern that consumer debt levels have gone up,” said Harmon.

Furthermore, Americans’ credit card debt has reached record highs. Credit card debt has reached $1 trillion for the first time, according to figures from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Shopper and spending resilience

Despite various overhangs, customers, according to John Harmon, continue to show resilience as they purchase for essentials, discretionary items, and services.

“So far, consumers really seem to have the desire, will, and ability to keep spending,” he said.

“Barring any cataclysmic event, things seem to be moving in that direction and we don’t foresee a huge risk to holiday spending.”

Back-to-school sales patterns in 2023 support this viewpoint. According to a recent S&P Global Market Intelligence research, school-related product sales are predicted to grow by 1.5% in 2023, as the inflation rate on back-to-school retail sales falls from 5.9% in 2022 to 0.3% in 2023. The study also mentioned how rising wages have aided in the continuation of spending.

Marshal Cohen of Circana predicts that buyers will continue to spend less on presents.

“The good news is there will be pent up demand on the gifting side of the equation,” he said. 

“Spending on essentials, and a lot less on discretionary products, means we have a lot of catching up to do by holiday time and a long list of desires to share with those giving gifts.”

Cohen also predicted that the 2023 holiday shopping season will mirror that of 2022, with a sluggish start in late October, Cyber Monday improving on Black Friday, and a significant delay until the last two weeks before the holidays.

“Consumers are in no rush to spend, and a lack of inspiration with so few new and exciting items makes for a ho-hum holiday at retail,” Cohen noted.

Magic Johnson makes history as Washington Commanders co-owner in 2023

Magic Johnson — The world of sports is, like every entity across various industries, one that sees changes frequently. While most of the focus is set on players and coaching staff, a team’s ownership is just as important.

The changes or additions to ownerships is massive as it influences the direction a sports franchise would take. Sometimes it leads to something good, and other times it takes the franchise to a downward spiral. Regardless, ownerships are big news.

In the world of NFL, the industry was shaken up when entrepreneur and NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson made history by becoming part-owner of the Washington Commanders. 

Read also: ChatGPT dipped in quality according to a new study

The news

Last Thursday, the NFL owners made a unanimous decision to approve the sale of the Washington Commanders to several billionaires led by Josh Harris, one of whom included Magic Johnson.

The massive group now has taken over the franchise from owner Daniel Snyder for a record $6.05 billion.

On Friday morning, 5-time NBA champion Magic Johnson expressed his excitement about the ownership, saying:

“It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

Magic Johnson makes history

The former Los Angeles Lakers champion has made history once again, this time in the NFL’s Washington Commanders. He has become the first Black co-owner within the franchise. With a new challenge in the sports world, Johnson acknowledged that he is aware that the team could use an internal face-lift.

“Well, first of all, you have to let the employees know that you respect them and it will be a safe place to work,” he explained.

“And we want you to have a winning attitude, too. These owners just can’t have a winning attitude. It’s got to trickle down to the employees. And then it’s got to trickle down to the coaches and trickle down to the players.”

“So if we respect them, they will respect us and go to the wall for us,” Johnson continued.

“And so – I’ve been in so many different sports teams … and we know how valuable these employees are, because they make it run every single day. And so we’re going to hire the best people. We already got a lot of great people. So this year it’s about listening, watching, and really learning.”

A team in peril

Under Daniel Snyder, the Washington Commanders had been a troubled franchise. Throughout his stint as the franchise owner, the Commanders had been embroiled in plenty of controversy.

Snyder was investigated by the NFL twice, both times for improper workplace conduct. On Thursday, one of the probes reached its conclusion.

Attorney Mary Jo White found that the Washington Commanders did not disclose revenue it was supposed to share with other franchises. Snyder was also found to have harassed a female employee.

As a result, Snyder was fined $60 million.

An emotional new start for Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson, 63, is no stranger to taking ownership of some major sports franchises. He has ownership stakes in the MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers, the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, and MLS’ Los Angeles FC. Outside of sports, Johnson owns the Magic Johnson Enterprises, which owned more than 100 Starbucks branches between 1998 and 2010. He later sold them, making $100 million.

The new Washington Commanders co-owner was emotional as he spoke about his business success, biting back tears.

“Breaking these barriers and going through these doors is important to me as a proud Black man,” he explained.

“I don’t know why God blessed me with these great opportunities. But I want to excel, not just for me and my family, but for all African Americans, making sure we can see ourselves in these seats. And I want people to know that we can do the job.”

Magic Johnson is eager to win at a franchise that holds three Super Bowls in its trophy cabinet, but the past three decades have gone by without much success. Instead, he is looking to change things with the rest of the ownership group. Johnson is looking to foster a winning culture.

“Without that, we can’t win on the field,” he said. “We want to do it the right way.”

Paving the way for others

Magic Johnson enters the role as a Black owner with Ariel Investments CEO Mellody Hobson and former Secretary of State Denver Condoleezza Rice, two members of the ownership group for the Denver Broncos. He is looking to become an example to other Black people and give them hope to elevate their careers and reach prominent positions within the organization.

“If we can excel at our roles, others will follow,” said Magic Johnson. “And I want them to be executives as well. I’m hoping that other owners will see that African Americans can do the job and give us opportunities.”

3 ways the Fed’s latest hike rate can affect you

The Fed — The Federal Reserve has taken dramatic steps to combat inflation for more than a year, hiking bank lending rates eleven times in total. As a result of the increases, many consumer rates have risen.

The rate hikes are intended to curb inflation, and they appear to be succeeding so far.

Read also: Magic Johnson makes history as Washington Commanders co-owner in 2023

Inflation update

According to the most recent Consumer Price Index measurement, inflation was 3% in June. Meanwhile, the Fed’s preferred inflation indicator, the core Personal Consumption Expenditure Index, showed that inflation fell to 4.6%.

Regardless, both numbers remain well over the Fed’s 2% objective, indicating that the US central bank is unwilling to lighten off on rate rises.

“Despite the euphoria over inflation coming down from 9.1% to 3% in the past year, the trend on core inflation readings – which exclude volatile food and energy components to provide a better read on inflation trends – is much less impressive,” said Greg McBride, the chief financial analyst of Bankrate.com.

“We may be waiting for a protracted period of cooling inflation before we see a halt to interest rate hikes,” added Michele Raneri, the vice president and head of US research and consulting at TransUnion.

The Federal Reserve highlighted three ways the latest rate rise may benefit or harm the general population on Wednesday.

Savings opportunities

As of July 17, the national average savings account interest was 0.52%, according to Bankrate. People’s money, on the other hand, can earn more in online high-yield savings accounts, particularly at FDIC-insured banks.

As of Wednesday, numerous FDIC-insured banks were charging rates ranging from 4.5% to 5%.

People who have enough money in their savings account to keep undisturbed for one month to a year can lock in a high rate by depositing it in an FDIC-insured bank.

Although the average rate on a one-year CD was only 1.58% as of July 17, there are certain one-year CDs available that pay more than 5%. Shorter-term CDs with interest rates ranging from 4% to 5% are also available. Some pay 5.35%, according to Schwab.com.

Credit card rates still high

Credit card rates are rising in lockstep with Fed rates. According to reports, card rates have been trending at more than 20-year highs in recent years.

According to Bankrate.com, the average credit card interest rate as of July 19 was 20.44%. The rate has decreased marginally from the previous week’s reading of 20.58%. Regardless, it is more than 6 percentage points more than the previous year’s average.

The average of 20.44% applies to all cardholders, even those who are never charged interest after paying their payment in full and on time every month. A closer look at persons who pay interest because they hold a monthly amount reveals that the average rate is higher. According to the Fed’s second-quarter figures, the average rate is 22.16%.

People that carry a debt will have to pay more money in interest if they merely pay the minimum required. As a result, it would take them longer to repay their debts.

“For someone with $5,000 in credit card debt on a card with a 22.16% [rate] and a $250 monthly payment, they will pay $1,298 in total interest and take 26 months to pay off the balance,” said LendingTree chief credit card analyst Matt Schulz.

“Cardholders’ best move is to assume that rates will continue to rise, and use that as further motivation to continue to knock down their credit card debt.”

Finding a suitable balance-transfer card with an initial 0% rate for over 21 months and paying what they owe in the months before the 0% rate expires is an option for credit card customers. Otherwise, the remaining balance would be liable to a greater interest rate than before they transferred their balance.

Mortgage cost remains high

Almost everything housing-related (purchasing, upgrading, and even borrowing against a home) consumes a sizable amount of people’s income, and the cost has continuously increased.

According to Freddie Mac, the average 30-year mortgage rate was 6.78% in the week ending July 20, down from 6.96% the previous week. Regardless, it is higher than the 5.54% rate recorded in 2022.

People who take up a $350,000 30-year fixed-rate mortgage now would pay an additional $281 per month compared to what they would have owed if they took out the loan in 2022 at 5.54%. This amounts to an additional $101,600 over the life of the loan.

People who are about to purchase a property may want to be prepared for potential rate increases. If they can afford the loans, it is best to lock in the lowest fixed rate offered.

Furthermore, mortgage rates are not directly linked to the Fed’s overnight lending rate. They instead follow the yield on the 10-year US Treasury note. The note’s yield reflects investor opinion for the economy and inflation.

If inflation continues to fall, the 10-year yield may fall as well, causing mortgage rates to fall.

Meanwhile, fixed-rate equity loans and variable-rate lines of credit are closely related to Fed actions. According to Bankrate, the average national rate for a home equity loan is 8.47% as of July 25. Meanwhile, the average interest rate on a home equity line of credit is 8.58%.

The rate that people can obtain depends on a number of things, including:

  • The size of the loan
  • Credit score
  • How much equity they have in their home
  • Income

People who have utilized a home equity line of credit for home upgrades, according to McBride, can ask their lender if they can set the rate on their remaining debt, resulting in a fixed-rate home equity loan. If they are turned down, they might explore paying off the loan with a HELOC from a different lender at a lower promotional rate.

South Korea working to be the top option for AI chips

South Korea — For more than a year, artificial intelligence has been the trendiest issue in an array of businesses. Midjourney and ChatGPT are two of the most divisive AI programs to date, attracting both pros and casual users. As a result, big corporations have altered their attention to profit on artificial intelligence.

South Korea has increased its attempts to become the top option for AI chips due to the direct relationship between AI and technology. South Korea has all the advantages required to win the global AI chip race, according to industry analysts. It is already one of the dominant giants in the memory chip market and has established one of the most inventive AI ecosystems today.

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The country’s strength and targets

According to the Asian country’s digital plan, they want to be one of the world’s top three AI powerhouses by 2027, trailing only the United States and China. Dalton Investments’ senior research analyst, James Lim, highlighted how South Korea might surge to the forefront of the modern era.

“South Korea is very strong in memory chips. AI does require a lot of memory. South Korea dominating in the memory market is definitely an advantage.”

South Korea’s minister of science, information, and communications technology, Jong-ho Lee, stated that the government wants to maintain its leadership position in memory semiconductors.

“South Korea seeks to emerge as a prominent player in rapidly growing and promising areas such as AI semiconductors,” said Lee.

The global hype

Large language models have created a significant demand for high-performance memory devices in the months after ChatGPT’s meteoric rise. Generative AI is a cutting-edge field of artificial intelligence that creates material such as text, graphics, and code, to mention a few examples.

The chips enable generative AI models to remember the bulk of facts from previous exchanges, as well as to record user preferences in order to provide near-human answers.

“In order for the use of AI, including ultra-large language models, a significant number of semiconductor chips are required to operate,” said Lee. “And global companies are competing fiercely to create high-performance and low-power AI semiconductors optimized for AI computation.”

The firms leading the way

Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix are two South Korean companies that have established themselves as the world’s top manufacturers of dynamic memory chips. In order to improve their capabilities, the companies have been actively investing in AI research and development.

Samsung announced plans in March to invest 400 trillion Korean won ($228 billion) in the development of a new semiconductor factory in South Korea. According to SemiAnalysis’ Dylan Patel, Samsung is investing a lot of money.

“And why is that? So they can catch up on technology, so they can continue to maintain their leadership position,” said Patel.

Lee elaborated on the matter, saying: “We will spare no effort to help Korea secure world-class AI semiconductor technology by leveraging our memory semiconductor capabilities AI semiconductors.”

According to TrendForce statistics, Samsung had a market share of 40.7% in the fourth quarter of 2022, while SK Hynix had a market share of 28.8%.

“South Korea has a robust local AI ecosystem, capable of competing with global tech giants,” said Sung Nako of South Korean internet titan Naver.

During a meeting with President Yoon Suk-yeol in June, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman encouraged South Korea to take charge of AI chip manufacturing. Altman also expressed a desire to invest in South Korean businesses. He also contemplated collaborating with well-known chipmakers such as Samsung Electronics.

“US chip giants Nvidia, Intel – they are not involved in the memory business,” Lim noted, implying that it would give South Korea a higher advantage. “They don’t have any exposure in the memory space.”

In comparison to Nvidia, Samsung is renowned as a supplier of greater bandwidth memory chips. The author of “Samsung Rising,” Geoffrey Cain, envisions the South Korean business diving deeper into the logic chip sector.

A greater advantage

The South Korean government has shown its support for the project by spending extensively in AI. The MSIT announced in 2022 that it will invest 1.02 trillion won ($786 million) over the following five years to finance AI semiconductor research and development.

“AI not only drives the growth of digital industries such as cloud computing and metaverse, but also serves as a key factor in dramatically improving productivity in traditional industries, such as manufacturing and logistics,” said Lee. “With AI being applied across various domains, even greater economic ripple effects can now be anticipated.”

South Korea is also committing 862.8 billion won through 2030 to the development of high-end semiconductors through new data centers and collaboration with entrepreneurs. The minister stated last month that the economic and industrial importance of AI semiconductors will continue to rise. He also stated that the country has a significant edge in the foundry and memory chip sectors.

“We will spare no effort to help Korea secure world-class AI semiconductor technology by leveraging our memory semiconductor capabilities to advance AI semiconductors in stages by 2030, developing additional to apply them to data centers, and fostering AI semiconductor experts,” said the minister in a June press release.

Meanwhile, Rebellions, a South Korean AI chip design company, increased its attempts to compete with US chip makers, saying that its new chip exceeded performance benchmarks, outperforming Nvidia’s counterpart by more than three times.

Park Sung-hyun, the CEO and co-founder of Rebellions, described the chip, saying, “In terms of AI workload, we have much better energy efficiency, cost efficiency… sometimes better performance.”

Rebellions is also said to be chasing government contracts as Seoul seeks to strengthen local firms.

Bitcoin mining claims sparks response from CH4 Capital co-founder

Bitcoin — Bitcoin mining has significant environmental implications due to its energy-intensive nature. The process involves solving complex mathematical problems, requiring massive computational power and, consequently, consuming enormous amounts of electricity. Miners worldwide compete to validate transactions and secure the network, which often leads to the use of fossil fuel-based power sources, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

Moreover, the mining hardware itself requires substantial resources, including rare metals and electronic components that are environmentally costly to extract and produce. The cumulative effect of these factors results in a substantial carbon footprint and exacerbates concerns about climate change. Addressing the environmental impact of Bitcoin mining necessitates exploring alternative energy sources, improving energy efficiency, and transitioning towards more sustainable mining practices.

However, there have been disputes surrounding such claims, with an expert saying that Bitcoin mining would instead clean up the atmosphere.

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Urge to denounce

Recently, an ESG-focused fund manager disputed claims from the GreenpeaceUSA non-profit organization that Bitcoin mining is a major contributor to pollution and a harm to society.

Last Tuesday, a report was published wherein GreenpeaceUSA urged Bitcoin-friendly financial services companies (BlackRock, Fidelity, and JPMorgan, to name a few) to denounce Bitcoin’s environmental destruction. Instead, they urged for them to change to a “cleaner protocol” code that removes the mining industry.

“All of these companies have connections to Bitcoin and have failed to take meaningful action to solve the problem despite making climate and sustainability pledges,” wrote GreenpeaceUSA.

Defending Bitcoin mining

However, CH4 Capital co-founder Daniel Batten rejected such views. He argued that Bitcoin is more helpful in the healing of the environment, rather than harming it.

“There is a growing weight of evidence from those most qualified to make the assessment to suggest that Bitcoin mining helps build out the renewable grid,” Batten wrote in a formal rebuttal.

Batten also cited Electric Reliability Council of Texas former interim CEO Brad Jones, who previously spoke about Bitcoin’s ability to help renewable energy operators become more profitable, fundable, and stable. The CH4 Capital co-founder also said that many facts and figures used by GreenpeaceUSA citing how harmful Bitcoin was to the environment were false and misleading.

According to Batten, GreenpeaceUSA uses unsubstantiated fears about the possibilities instead of using evidence. He slammed the report, saying it was filled with emotive language. For example, GreenpeaceUSA said the mining industry is mainly powered by coal. However, Batten noted that there are 41 known sustainably powered mining operations with only one operation maintaining coal-related products.

The fears

Bitcoin’s impact on the environment is a growing concern due to its resource-intensive mining process. The energy requirements for mining Bitcoin are immense, leading to a significant demand for electricity. Unfortunately, this often translates into reliance on fossil fuels, contributing to carbon emissions and exacerbating climate change concerns. Additionally, the mining hardware itself necessitates the extraction of rare metals and other resources, further straining the environment.

These combined factors result in a substantial ecological footprint associated with Bitcoin mining. Addressing these environmental fears requires exploring alternative energy sources, improving energy efficiency in mining operations, and adopting more sustainable practices to mitigate the environmental consequences of Bitcoin’s popularity.

Mining today

The CH4 Capital co-founder used presented data to show how Bitcoin emissions are falling over time compared to GreenpeaceUSA simply claiming that Bitcoin’s environmental destruction would escalate if left to its devices.

“Emissions are falling despite rising hashrate due to decimation of mining in Kazakhstan and other coal-based grids,” Batten explained.

He said that miners have relocated to more sustainably powered grids, citing Texas as an example. In addition, Batten cited individual companies have shifted their facilities from coal-based standards to wind-based standards and flare-gas mining that decreases the overall net emissions of the Bitcoin network.

CH4 Capital specifically invests in companies that strive to mine Bitcoin with purified landfill gas that might have been burned, polluting the atmosphere with methane emission. As a result, their process creates a win-win situation for the environment and the company’s bottom line.

“Our $400 million fund will have sufficient dry powder to finance the Bitcoin network, abating more emissions than it’s creating, which can end ESG FUD, the major remaining barrier for both retail and institutional adoption,” said Batten.

Reception to GreenpeaceUSA

The GreenpeaceUSA campaign started in 2022 when it received $5 million to shed light on the perils of the mining industry.

As a result, the Bitcoin community has been unwelcoming to the organization. Regarding their campaign and backer, Chris Larsen of Ripple, Batten refused to comment further.

“I’ll let people make up their own mind about the intentions of a chair of another altcoin giving a large sum of money to help an NGO attack a rival form of cryptocurrency in Bitcoin,” said Batten.